(Boston, MA) – For New Hampshire head coach Bill Herrion, this was personal.
One game after becoming the all-time leader in America East wins with the 153rd conference victory of his career – a dramatic 92-86 overtime thriller over visiting UMBC – Herrion watched as his Wildcats reverted back to their losing ways; chucking up three’s, forcing shots and stumbling to a 68-56 road loss to Boston University in a game that was never close.
It was the 134th meeting between the two schools, who date back as founding members of the ECAC North Conference – the predecessor of the present America East – in 1979. It’s been a rivalry akin to that of a hammer and a nail, with the Terriers owning a 96-38 record in head-to-head matchups.
With Boston University leaving the America East for the Patriot League at season’s end, the game marked the end of an era – and a 33 year partnership that survived three different conference incarnates – for the two schools, and the final time they would meet as conference foes.
Following the final buzzer, for Herrion, the magnitude of the moment went far beyond the game, the rivalry, or the season: It was far more than a tough, old-school head coach taking another one on the chin in a year full of lumps, or the New Hampshire program once again being pummeled by a team that has used it as a perennial punching bag.
For Herrion, it was a trip to his former home and a place that will forever hold special significance in his heart. It was at Boston University where Herrion, a native of Oxford, Massachusetts and Merrimack College graduate (1981), got his start, being hired as an assistant under then-Terriers head coach Mike Jarvis in 1985.
“I spent five years here as an assistant from 85 to 90, with Mike Jarvis – he was the head coach,” reflected Herrion. “My five years here as an assistant, we never played a game here in the Roof [Case Gymnasium]; we used to play all the home games in the Walter Brown – in the rink.”
“We went to two NCAA Tournaments, we went to an NIT; We played Providence in the NIT here when [Louisville head coach Rick] Pitino was coaching at Providence and [Florida head coach] Billy Donovan was playing,” he explained.
In his first two years as a Terrier, Herrion was immediately thrown into the fire of the BU-Northeastern rivalry, losing back-to-back conference Championships to the Huskies.
“My first two years here at BU in 85-86 and 86-87, we lost in the finals to Northeastern. You don’t even realize what the Northeastern-BU rivalry used to be – it was big time,” he emphasized. “[late NBA great] Reggie Lewis was at Northeastern and they beat us our first two years here in the finals to go to the Tournament.” (more…)